Cebu News

Part of “Big syndicate”: Romanians fall in bank scam

Ma. Fatima R. Secuya - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Two more Romanian nationals allegedly involved in an international syndicate engaged in illegally with-drawing money from bank accounts of residents abroad were arrested during a police operation in Mandaue City, Cebu, last Saturday night.

The suspects Petru Ioan Uveges, 43; and Stefania Michaela Osman, 36, both from Romania, were allegedly caught in the act of withdrawing money using fake cards at an ATM machine in Barangay Tipolo, Mandaue City.

The operation was conducted by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-7, Mandaue City Intelligence Branch operatives and the Special Weapons and Tactics personnel of the Mandaue City Police Office.

Police have yet to trace the address of the two suspects since they refused to say anything during their interrogation. However, police recovered a driver’s license from Uveges that named his address in Angeles City, Pampanga, while Osman’s ID showed that she is from the Drobeta-Turnu Severin, a city in Romania.

Superintendent Marlon Tayaba, acting chief of the CIDG-7, said Uveges and Osman were reported to them by a bank when they found the mode of transaction as well as the cards they used, suspicious. The two used British Export Cards that served as their ATM cards.

“Normally in banks in the Philippines, the maximum allowable withdrawal is only P50,000. Others they withdraw P30,000, others P40,000. But using these cards, they can manage to withdraw up to P500,000. So, nakakapagtaka talaga,” said Tayaba, adding banks can also notice if the client is using an illegitimate card.

With this, Tayaba said they started monitoring the two. It took about a month to conduct an entrapment operation against them leading to their arrest.

Policemen confiscated from the two 67 British Export Cards and cash worth P52,000 which they allegedly illegally withdrew.

“They’ve been to several ATM machines. Kahit anong klase ng ATM machine, pwede kasi ito,” said Tayaba.

Tayaba said although suspects only victimized those ATM cardholders abroad this does not mean that no Filipinos were victimized by this kind of modus operandi.

“Based on information, victims are from abroad and they victimize international accounts. We have not received any information that they victimize local banks. However, maybe some accounts are owned by Filipinos abroad. We cannot determine it yet,” said Tayaba.

Not the first

Last September, another Romanian national named Gheorge Stretcu, was also arrested by the Cebu City Intelligence Branch after illegally withdrawing money from an ATM using the reward cards of a convenience store. He however was able to post bail and was eventually released.

Tayaba said after the arrest of Stretcu, they kept on monitoring Romanian nationals that have a suspicious nature of withdrawing.

He said the two suspects and Stretcu know each other and are in the same crime syndicate. He added they are still tracing the other members of the syndicate that still could be in Central Visayas.

“They are members of syndicate and they are considered the skimmers or harvesters. We are still digging deeper to determine how they get data for encryption sa ginagamit nila na card,” said Tayaba.

Tayaba, however, said this did not only happen in Cebu. In fact, he said they have already made several arrests in Manila. However, since the banks in Manila are tightening their security, this could possibly be the reason they went to Cebu.

“We have several incidents of arrest in Manila. But since Manila is full of blue guards sa mga bangko, medyo konti na lang nakukuha nila,” said Tayaba.

He also said another possible reason why these syndicates choose Philippines as their area of operation is because of the kind of ATM card we have is inferior compared to the other countries.

“Accordingly, sa other country, they use chip. Sa ATM here in our country, we only use strips. Madali lang gayahin,” said Tayaba.

“But I heard that the bankers association is coming up with reinventing an ATM card that has embedded chips,” he further said. — /BRP (FREEMAN)





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